While Rome Burned

In honor of Crossover and for anyone who wondered what the House members of the Virginia General Assembly were up to this year, wonder no longer.  The entire month of January, at least to this outside observer, was spent sweating bullets and debating ad nauseum HB 1900, the Speaker’s dog hunting bill. 

If any of you have surmised that dogs running at large is the last thing on the Speaker’s mind, you are not alone.  There was certainly more to this bad legislation than met the eye.  My guess is the real reason so much time and energy was devoted to an issue which already has laws aplenty on the books will eventually come to light.

Perhaps the commercial hunting interests, which were the catalyst for this bill, will be a bit more careful on social media and twitter, but they are an egotistical and generally hateful lot, so they may not be able to resist.  I learned all I needed to know when they made their Nazi commercial with English subtitles comparing dog hunters to Hitler. It’s irksome that this kind of behavior has to touch our Virginia General Assembly, but there it is.

Spare me the property rights lecture. If your county is not enforcing your laws, find out why. Perhaps new representatives are in order to help enforce those laws, but don’t advocate a bill which would have cost localities no small sum and served no additional purpose.

Colleagues have remarked that there were more comments on Richmond Sunlight regarding this bill than any other seen before, a bill which would have been quietly left on the table, had it not been carried by Bill Howell.  This is also apparently the first time the Speaker has lost his bid to have a bill passed, so for what it’s worth, you are all a witness to history.  My guess he is regrouping for another in-run next year against the tradition of dog hunting in Virginia.     

The highlight of session was when the Gentleman from Campbell County, Delegate Matt Farris, told a tall tale which made light of the pressure exerted on House members by the Speaker to support a bill adding another layer of complicated government. It also highlighted the ridiculous aspects of the thing, which was pretty much all of it. The bill died with a close vote 48-47 on Monday, with four members of the GA not recording a vote.  When polled later, both Delegates Jackson Miller and Richard Morris claimed to be no votes.     

For now, I guess in a way, it’s worth a chuckle or two, but the sad thing is, it really isn’t funny.  In an election year when Republicans should be setting an example in legislation which leads the way towards less government, showing citizens how well our philosophy works, at least one half of the GA spent a month discussing dogs.  At least, that’s how it appeared.  Not very conducive to setting the stage for Virginians to feel good about voting conservatively this November.   

We are told to be good Republicans on the local level and lead the charge, but apparently it does not work both ways.  Instead, members of local government, many of whom are hardworking conservatives who give their all when it’s time to elect Republicans up the chain, get left holding the General Assembly’s baggage.  Until the light bulb goes off in the heads of some in Richmond, and they understand that making war on local government with things like the proffer bill, the cable bill and the dog bill is truly making war on regular citizens of both parties, it won’t get any better. 

Last year’s favorite “bad bill” provided for the possibility I could look out into my neighbor’s yard and see a fully constructed cell tower, because God knows a locality is too foolish to institute guidelines for where they should safely go.  You might ask, “who carries this stuff?” The answer is almost all do at one time or another.  Sometimes these bills go down and sometimes they pass.  A senator told me the proffer bill had to be passed to punish NoVA for taking advantage of developers.  When I pointed out our county, nor its neighbors along the water, had ever abused the proffer system, he offered to exempt us.  Guess who got exempted? High density areas in NOVA – the offending party who lobbied harder – got that exemption, not Caroline. A miserable solution anyway, as it did nothing to help those who had not abused the system.  Said one delegate when I pointed out the detrimental affect locally, “they don’t get it and they don’t care.  The feeling is that they are completely insulated.”

Until they “get it,” local government officials and local party chairs as well should stop providing the insulation between citizens and the Virginia General Assembly and stop making excuses for bad legislation carried by Republicans.  Take my advice, you are “enabling” and many times cleaning up the mess they make, or at the very least you get to deal on a daily basis with the fallout from an ongoing situation you advised against. 

In Caroline, we must come to the conclusion that although we are represented directly by some good people, the General Assembly on the whole lacks a connection to real citizens and real situations and creates a culture of “every man for himself.” During General Assembly time, “team” goes right out the window with narrowly focused buddy bills and bright ideas on how to claim balanced budgets in Richmond by putting the burden on local taxpayers.  

Remember this the next time a Delegate or Senator, now a would-be Lieutenant Governor or Attorney General candidate, stands in front of your committee, or at a local meet-and-greet.  His or her voting record is a finger touch away.  

Remember this when you are asked to round up people in your county to vote Republican. How many voters Speaker Howell alienated from the base this year remains to be seen.  The following came from my final update on the dog bill from a poster named Kelly:

I have seen/heard from many dog hunters & dog owners that they don’t need to be taken for granted by Republicans anymore. These people are hunters, gun owners, rural people & those with a sense of Virginia history. Speaker Howell has alienated these voters. He must know of a Republican tsunami where traditional Republican votes are not needed.

Looking directly at the Governor’s race, if social media is any gauge, Denver Riggleman made hay while the sun shone when Howell opened up the crack in the door of the base with this dog bill. Riggleman quickly made a video in support of traditional Virginia values and dog hunting, and he will likely be rewarded for it. He gained name recognition with a huge GOP base in rural Virginia who otherwise would never have known his name, most of whom would undoubtedly have been Gillespie people.

That’s not to say that everything was bad this House session. There was actually some good stuff going on behind the scenes in the House, but it has been overshadowed by things like the dog bill. This session was characterized by one media guru as “silly season,” something the liberal press loves, unfortunately. Next time, perhaps the GOP can put these things to bed in private, even if the main issue is a buddy bill carried by the powerful Speaker of the House.  This was more like a temper tantrum than legislation and Virginians just can’t afford it this year.  The stakes are too high. 

I look forward to talking about good, constructive legislation in the near future in posts going forward.

In the meantime . . .

Dear Republican “TEAM” Members of the General Assembly: 

Please stop with the attitude that we are too stupid to govern ourselves.  Please stop thinking we won’t remember if you, and you alone, make it necessary for a raise in local taxes by making war with a vengeance on our income streams, without offering us an alternative. We have to buy the police cars, fire trucks and build the schools, not you. It’s the era of Trump and people are paying attention. Some of us are actually balancing our budget locally, watching every penny we spend and making wise decisions.  Stop punishing us for the sins of a few.  It’s the easy way out.  

But more importantly, please remember that we have had four long years of Terry McAuliffe during which time Virginia has lost its place as a mecca for business and job creation.  We have had four years of push toward a progressive, liberal agenda on all fronts and on every issue.  What you do this year matters.  Please focus your agenda away from easy targets like the little guy (dog hunters, folks in rural Virginia who need internet and sources of revenue for local government services) and refocus on the Commonwealth as whole, remembering that one size does not fit all.  Virginians live in all kinds of diverse settings, from big beautiful cities to pristine country and waterside.  While it will take much thought and strategic planning as a body to do what is right for everyone, you can do it.  After all, that’s what we hired you to do. It is what each of you promised when you asked to be elected.  

Newsflash: even though a “Republican” was elected to the White house, Virginia is still burning. 

Get it together up there, folks.

  • Dylan Lloyd

    Nicely done

  • The Derecho

    This year is no different than any other year. Habeeb and Stanley defecated HB1766 and SB1110 upon local jurisdictions while Kilgore and McDougle followed suit with HB2196 and SB1282. The General Assembly is owned by Dominion and its ilk and thus pisses on us every year (see last year’s proffer bill and previous years’ bills that pass on the costs of things like LODA).

    The only difference this year is that they are starting to feel the heat, thus the crushing defeat of HB2196 right before crossover (it took some time for the heat to sink in). Lets just hope the House hasn’t just as quickly lost their balls and kills the companion Senate bills.

    • Susan Sili

      Nope SB1282 is not in that category although on the surface it may look to be so.It seeks to standardize the placement of equipment and cell towers which already belong (property rights here) to Virginia Power and for which localities (which I normally defend) are trying to control and coop as if THEY owned them and use them as a bargaining tool against other county neighbors (worse case scenario but it is happening) to not extend internet and other communications capability. The only problem Caroline had and we researched the bill and visited McDougle was the limitation on the fees, which he promptly amended in response to our concerns. This bill also has an excellent provision which is good for the locality and that is it makes it clear we can pass local conditions regarding clean up of old equipment. Caroline will now be empowered to require them to do the clean up and even charge a bond until the job is finished.This is one of those that requires homework and can be easily misunderstood.

      • The Derecho

        Then you haven’t fully read the bill or understand the localities objections.

        • Susan Sili

          Then you did not read my reply. Caroline is a LOCALITY who objected………….and now that it is amended, do not. Yesterday Virginia Association of Counties worked with the Senator and had another small part amended. So now Pray enlighten me what “localities” object to? There is not much left in the bill that states anything other than the PROPERTY OWNER aka VIRGINIA POWER can do as they please with their PROPERTY. What am I missing? This should be REALLY easy.

          • The Derecho

            The last version I read still has:

            1. prohibition of special exception/use permits, or variances
            2. defined fee structure
            3. limitations on disapproval
            4. prohibition on moratoriums
            5. virtually unlimited access to and use of right of ways

            Would you like me to spend a few more minutes and do some more nit-picking.

            Sorry, Caroline County, pretty as it is, doesn’t face the same issues or at least the scale of issues that more developed Counties do. It would be similar to saying that if Franklin County had no issues with last years proffer legislation then all counties had no problem with it.

          • Susan Sili

            Caroline County officials spent a week at the General Assembly last year fighting the proffer bill.I don’t recall seeing anyone from Franklin County, but maybe you made your stand by e-mail? or by phone which is okay.We all lost that one. If anyone understands the need for communications, it’s Caroline. We spent three days there this year fighting Byron’s Broadband bill and 70 per cent of our county is without internet. Perhaps we just know how to pick our battles and are not interested in trying to wrest control of structures which already belong to Virginia Power and for which we have already charged fees and given variances to. The amended bill actually allows us to charge way more for an upgrade than ever before, a whopping 5 thousand bucks which is NOT good news for Virginia Power. Virginia Association of Counties also was successful in taking the verbiage out on the new tower construction so there is no reason to expend any energy on it unless you want to nit pick the 90-day turnaround. In Caroline, we are so desperate for internet, we would be approving in far less time than that.

          • The Derecho

            I guess that my using Franklin County as an analogy to demonstrate the different stances taken by different counties sailed right over your head. No matter, your own post makes my argument for me. While Caroline County might be desperate for internet connectivity and additional telecom facilities, mine is not. Local circumstances dictate which battles are picked by each jurisdiction, thus I wouldn’t presume that Caroline County’s priorities or concerns are the same as say Fairfax. In this instance, the continued assault on local zoning authority rose to the level that my county (not Franklin) chose to engage, principally because it was recently blindsided by just such micro facilities (the County actually responds to angry residents). BTW, the structures impacted are not exclusively owned by Dominion Power anywhere in the Commonwealth that I am aware of. Perhaps Caroline County is located in an alternate reality although I thought that was exclusively the territory of Del. Habeeb and Sen. Stanley.

          • Susan Sili

            Nope, Orrock, Fowler, Ransone and McDougle. Just about everything I write contains the theme directed to the General Assembly that “one size does not fit all”. and inroads on local government is what I write about most often. The story above certainly conveys the same. You are preaching to the choir. However If the watered down version of 1282 is still that bad, I have a new interest in it. Can you give me a short scenario how it would affect the addition of a new micro-facility on an existing structure other than the cap on fees of $5,000.00?

          • The Derecho

            Being the cynical bastard that I am, I can’t help but believe that both bills are a direct response to an issue that came to light in December. Mobilitie LLC, a large, privately held telecom infrastructure company, was found to have installed several of their facilities in the county, many in county owned right of ways and all without review and zoning approval. Only after the facilities were brought to the attention of the County did Mobilitie come to the table, hat in hand.

            The language of the bill as filed addresses each of Mobilitie’s violations and the substitute still provides some relief. Coincidence, I think not.

          • Susan Sili

            ah that is a different story. That is what comes to light when we share information and should encourage us all to get together on these things. Notice there is no advocacy group for supervisors although McDonnell tried a version which had others on it besides supervisors that studied unfunded mandates but it was too little and did not last. Gillespie has talked about establishing such an animal..On 1282,I was told Virginia Power was having issues with long drawn out time frames and huge fees for small projects on their existing infrastructure which was holding up communication projects across Virginia. As of Crossover VACO was about to sign off on the thing as long as new construction was exempted. I will asking this direct question about Mobilitie of my senator Monday.

          • Susan Sili

            yes after some quick research here, Mobllitie is a much bigger fish than Virginia Power, have a lobbyist in Richmond but are not required to show what bills they are working. The only state money I see donated from them is to Hillary Clinton’s PAC and Levar Stoney’s mayoral PAC for Richmond mayor but will be asking some questions.

          • Susan Sili
          • The Derecho

            A quick Google search reveals that the violations here appear to be Mobilitie’s SOP nationwide. Install and then ask permission.

          • Susan Sili

            yep and it looks like they are bragging they will overcome local regulations anyway. Very glad you put this on my radar screen. I can’t follow the money though and there has to be a trail. Sprint does not give enough to those involved to make any difference, $500.00 is in the noise so there must be another avenue. What I need to know is if Verizon uses them as a vendor in Virginia, then it all comes together. In the meantime the bill is completed gutted and can be found on the front page of Virginia Association of Counties as a success story but you were certainly right to be concerned.

          • The Derecho
  • Lawrence Wood

    Rapidly moving toward filling a currently void political niche and that is to become the semi Republican state legislative “California”. The Republican national party and the vast majority of it’s state organizations are moving in one direction, Virginia is wandering around randomly. Perhaps the trespassing and hunting dog Richmond mania is just a metaphor for the state party and it’s elected legislative arm – confused, lost with no intelligent oversight to separate objective from endless pandering.

  • Conservative

    The only real winner in all of this is Fariss R-59.

  • old_redneck
  • kelley

    i’ve never been quoted before. thank you

  • David Jackson

    These RINOs need to go especially Howell.

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